Poetry

Obstruction #7: the Sonnet

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After all our readings and discussion about the sonnet, Ron gave us an obstruction. He mixed some of the techniques or themes we read and saw in class. Here are the guidelines:

  1. It must be a sonnet (English/Shakespearean or Italian/Petrarchan, or some new variant).
  2. A question is asked and answered within the sonnet.
  3. Rhymes, repetitions must surprise. The rhyme scheme may sound similar to the sonnet’s even if it is found inside the lines, not at the end.
  4. Play with visual arrangement of lines or punctuation.
  5. History is alive (dates, lyrics, facts, memories).
  6. Think about plurality, multiplicity, the ways strata build on each other.

I was feeling particularly inspired and decided to write what I called “a crown”. Re-reading my notes, I understood that a crown is where sonnets are linked (for example using the same sentences at the beginning and end of sonnets, or the same word). I didn’t. I just wrote a sequence of sonnets with a similar theme. It is about the cities where I lived or that left a mark on me.

*

I. Livorno 

My grandfather had a little boat.

We sailed until our skin got burnt.

His hands were spottles, rapid and young

As he talked, gripping the ship’s wheel

 

telling me about squids and moray eels.

Venezia was not the city to us.

We had no canals, but we had Fossi

Which literally means moats. Trenches.

 

Green, dirty, putrid water, stagnating

Among the pitch black streets of the city.

You could sail there, but you must not swim.

They said you’d get ill if you did.

 

There was nothing to fear, no reef, no cliff,

But mostly, my granpa knew all about squids.

 

italy-livorno-port.jpg

 

II. Firenze

You sat on the steps of San Lorenzo.

Your bag was made of Florentine leather.

I was new to all, you offered to help.

We both knew you wanted me in your bed.

 

I started my way through narrow lanes,

Studying Italian poems and English stories,

wearing jumpers over silk and lace

to come over and see you right after class.

 

We’d never imagine how it went on.

I thought it was good to have some fun.

Now it’s been four years you have stopped

Sleeping with drunken tourists,

 

I’ve got my degree, and Florence is far.

Writing and love, where it all began.

 

firenze-rodo-hotel

 

III. Canterbury

No one ever wants to be alone.

I like the challenge of listening to me.

I imagine, I rejoy, I moan.

I like to go and then come back to the sea.

 

At eighteen, I could travel by myself.

I took a suitcase, Harry Potter and a pad.

England had always waited for me.

I could not disappont her anymore.

 

I wanted to write my Canterbury Tales.

I took my first coffee at Costa

Scribbling until my fingers hurt.

Men watched me having my n°1 beer.

 

I smiled to them, drank until the last drop

But run fast, scared shitless, home.

 

builders-canterbury.jpg

 

IV. Oslo

Sognsvann was silent under the white sky.

I dived, touched the Northen sand

With the tip of my toe, and breathed.

I had found my new, salty home.

 

I took the boat to see Bygdøy

I looked at the black Viking boats

I ate sausages on the cold beach

And lied in silence as frost we my hair.

 

Sognsvann was white under the black sky.

The winter comes early in this part of Europe.

I walked laughing on the snow and felt

the crack of the ice covering the lake.

 

Still I could feel no cold, nor I minded the snow

Because the sea would always take me home.

 

the_norwegian_national_opera_ballet_oslo_norway_2_1_516d1910-7fb8-4b87-8670-c1288f824cf0.jpg

 

V. Bronxville

There is a small town where all is quiet.

There is a labrador barking in the garden.

United States flag goes with the wind

Lazily moving as I walk in the street.

 

I have never thought about writing for real

I had always thought it was just a dream.

I had thick notebooks of stories

I thought no one wanted to read.

 

It’s a small town where you eat donuts.

You can go to CVS or take the Metro North

You pay 14 bucks and you go to New York.

In Bronxville, I decided I wanted to be a writer.

 

And I don’t get when they say nothing

can happen in an American provincial town.

 

Bronxville-in-Snow---January-2011---v2.jpg

 

VI. New York City

Emma Stone blowed me a kiss in Times Square.

I wish. She was watching me from some ads

Shining brightly over my head.

I felt a lump in my throat and cried.

 

The first time I set foot in Times Square,

yes, I cried like a baby, hot tears on my cheeks

as I watched the greatness of a country

I had only imagined and seen in films.

 

I had seen too big cans, cars, pizzas

In Bronxville, I had thought Americans

Always need the unnecessary.

But then I saw New York and I shut up.

 

I walked until my feet got purple

Because I couldn’t get enough of that bigness.

 

hero1.jpg

 

VII. London

Sit on the pavement and wait for the bus.

It’s a super bus, a double-decker,

usually bright red, but I swear I saw one

printed with leopard skin and Magnums.

 

Sit and wait for it to take you away.

You have sailed little boats through

putrid moats, and dived into beautiful

Norwegian lakes. You took the Metro North.

 

You stumbled on the cobblestone in Florence,

and now you sit and wait for the bus.

It’s a special bus, you can choose the way.

It’s just your bus, only you can drive it.

 

London is your memories and future. It’s

your story. It’s your life that finally kicks off.

 

London may eventually be, finally, home.

 

london-1_tcm277-2111842

 

 

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